The following is from the July 11, 2017, edition of The Dallas Morning News.
July 12, 2017
By Corbett Smith
Thanks to $50 million gift from grocery magnate Charles Butt, students . . . could have an easier jump into the teaching profession.
On (July 10), an education nonprofit founded by Butt announced the launch of Raising Texas Teachers, an initiative aimed at providing scholarships for teaching candidates, as well as technical support for teacher training programs throughout the state.
Two Dallas-area universities — Southern Methodist University and University of North Texas-Dallas — were among the 10 recipients to receive funding. It’s part of a bigger push by Butt, the chairman and CEO of H-E-B, to bolster public education in the state. Earlier this year, he gave $100 million to launch a leadership institute for school administrators.
At least 500 students will be helped each year, receiving $8,000 in annual scholarships, in addition to more training and mentorship opportunities.
“Research consistently shows that the strength of the teacher makes the biggest difference in influencing a student’s success,” Butt said in a news release. “To improve academic achievement, it is critical that Texas elevate the status of the teaching profession, strengthen the existing pool of aspiring teachers, and inspire our most talented high school graduates to consider a career in teaching.”
That is becoming increasingly harder to do, according to research from Dallas education non-profit Commit. Texas colleges are failing to produce enough trained educators to keep pace with demand. Commit’s estimates are that Dallas County school districts will need to fill over 30,000 vacant teaching positions through 2021.
At SMU, the funding will reduce a significant barrier of entry for its Master’s program: cost. Starting in 2018, the cost of the two-year training path will drop from $24,000 to $8,000 — thanks to the grant.
“It’s a big deal," said Amy Ferrell, an SMU professor involved in educator preparation at the Simmons School of Education.
Ferrell, a former teacher in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, said that SMU’s Master’s program places 30 graduates a year in public and private schools across North Texas, including Dallas ISD.
“It’s critical that we put people in the pipeline who are as ready as possible,” Ferrell said. “Teaching is a practice. It’s something that we expect for people to improve over time. But there absolutely is a level of readiness that we can provide people here in our program that is definitely different than other pathways — alternative certification or non-degreed programs.”
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